The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Monday, September 26, 2011

My Good Fork

Because I like to cook (which in my case is not the same as being a good cook), and because I therefore love to thumb through catalogs of cooking utensils that appear in my mail, I am always picking out, mentally, all sorts of neat and handy stuff.  Expensive pots and pans I have no space or need for, serving dishes I do not need but that are lovely, and gadgets galore, again that would have to compete with all the handy, dandy devices I already have and use, and the others.  But there was one ad in the Williams Sonoma catalog (W-S being a guilty pleasure), for a cooking fork, and frankly anyone who cooks even plain food really needs one of those.  It was just in the price range I could justify, obviously not cheap but well-made, and nothing that would break the piggy bank or be embarrassing in its cost.  So day after day I picked up that catalog and flipped to that page and had just made up my mind to get one. 

Then one night my subconscious must have gone to work on me, because during the night, the thought popped into my relative conscious that I already had a cooking fork.  It came with an old knife set I am incapable of discarding, but do not use on an every-day basis, and was safely tucked in one of the kitchen drawers where I keep old items I have, just in case.  The next morning, I went to the drawer, extricated the fork, and it has been busy ever since.  It turns meats I’m browning or sautéing, it helps break up frozen foods I’m microwaving, it can even double as a serving fork for everyday use.

What it is, is a valuable cooking tool.  I learned about having the right tools years ago, when we were young, poor early-marrieds, and my husband needed a drill.  Just an everyday common electric drill, to install hinges on some shutters he had stained.   (To this day, he’s not crazy about shutters.)  Anyway, he broached the subject of a drill, and I really cross-examined him about whether the drill would have limited uses and all that.  This illustrates how ignorant I was about tools and how tight our budget was.  He ended up getting that drill, and needless to say it labored long in the service of our home and then was passed along to our daughter when it was replaced with a more heavy-duty one, and I learned to be quiet when he says he needs a tool.  Because we all need the right tool for the job.

And reclaiming my cooking fork from its drawer and putting it into service reminded me that many, many times we think we need or want something that we already have.  We just need to look around.  Real good. 

Friday, September 23, 2011


Full disclosure here:  considering ourselves independent moderates, we have voted on both sides of the political spectrum, until of course the Republicans themselves, by their own mouths, made it impossible for us to consider them seriously.  We can mention former Republican congressmen, such as former senator Chuck Hagel, as an example of intelligent, balanced thinking.  But note that he is no longer in Congress, by his own choice.

And unfortunately, as far as the current crop of presidential candidates, there’s not a one we’d have to dinner, much less vote for, particularly our own governor, Rick Perry.  As some would describe Mr. Perry in Texas, “he’s all hat, no cattle.”  It has been an amazement to us that he has been elected and re-elected, until we consider the sources of his support:  real big money.  The poor man has done terrible things to our cherished state.   His programs have ‘borrowed’ funds from Teacher Retirement, cut resources by as much as 75% for volunteer firemen, pushed through all sorts of cuts that severely disadvantage the state, and worst of all, claimed credit for jobs which in many cases he did not create, and in others, are so low-paying that, as one person stated, “Governor Perry has created jobs; I know, I work three of them!”

But!  Oh, how we dislike defending the fellow on anything.  But!  The thing that Perry is being ragged on just now, education at state resident rates for illegal immigrants, is, in our opinions, his one saving grace.  First of all, when folks check out the details, as we understand them, young people must have lived in the state for three years, have graduated from a Texas high school, and must promise to begin the procedure to become citizens.  Now what is wrong with any of that, when you consider that they are already here, and education at residence rates is so much cheaper than what it would cost to incarcerate them when they are uneducated and jobless and get into gangs and mischief or worse.

Another Texas fellow we didn’t always agree with, but who went on to do wonderful things such as support the Civil Rights Act, and you know who I mean, Lyndon Johnson, well, Lyndon Johnson said, “Education will not cure all the problems of society, but without it no cure for any problem is possible."

So there you have it.  Good ideas and good actions can come from those we perceive as flawed or plain old wrong.  It might benefit us all to listen to us all.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Geckos all around

Having made our homes with planted areas, small or large, around us, we have found ourselves being hosts to geckos often.  Now, this is not referring to Gordon Gekko, the fictional Wall Street pest, or even the rather charming animated gecko in the insurance advertisements, but the little creatures that seem to appear around the garden, in the mail box, and even, sometimes, the house.

We definitely have a resident gecko or two in our mailbox and I’m pretty sure I inadvertently chopped off the tail of one when I closed the mailbox door and only then spotted the gecko when it moved quickly away.  I was filled with remorse, but what could one do?  Since there has been appearance of a gecko in and around the mail box since, I cling to the belief that it did in fact survive and simply grew a new tail.  Maybe a better one.

The other day, I noticed a very small one in our bathtub.  Now I need to explain that the tub is not in use since we prefer showers, but it came with the house and is large and marble, albeit cultured marble, so we just dust it from time to time and use the shelf behind it, a large marble shelf below the window there, for plants.   Recently I had a plant crisis that required that I move some cherished plants from the garden room where they were literally cooking in our bitter summer heat, and to make space, I moved the porcelain pot of philodendron (ah, those alliterations) out to the garden room.  Thinking about it later, I must presume that a wandering gecko moved into the philodendron and then got a trip when I moved the philodendron back to the tub shelf.  Then the same adventurous gecko must have emerged and dropped (surprise!) into the tub.  I saw it, greeted it, and went on my way, but a day or so later, noticed it was still there and realized that even geckos can’t always deal with cultured marble when it is that steep a slope and that it would starve there.  So we very carefully tricked the gecko into wiggling into a small envelope, carefully folded the top over and transported the envelope outside to a nice freshly rained-on flower bed and released it.  Which is a much better environment for any critter than that big old tub.

Why so much trouble for a little lizard-type critter?   Well, geckos eat bugs, and while I would be a bit skittish about living very intimately with a gecko or a lizard or a frog, etc., I’m way more skittish about bugs.  Way.

What we want from our government

We want our national honor at least partly salvaged by taking complete care of all the 9/11 first responders and their colleagues who are ill; no questions about when a cancer or other illness began, just take care of them.  NOW.  For America’s sake.  For America’s honor.  For America’s gratitude.

We want the President to be supported and encouraged in his efforts to provide jobs and reduce the deficit, and NOW, please.  If the plan is tried and doesn’t succeed, at least we tried.  If it does succeed, glory be.   If we don’t try, there is no chance of succeeding.  Is that really what we want?  We're talking to Democrats and Republicans all.

We want a balanced approach to fixing the deficit problem, including roll back of the Bush Tax Cuts for the very wealthy, plus a stop to unneeded subsidies to the oil companies, etc.  And NOW would be good.  Or do we really want to tax the elderly and the ill while protecting corporate interests?    Really?

And speaking of reforming Social Security, why is it never considered to simply apply the Social Security payroll tax to ALL earned income, up to and including the CEO salaries in the stratosphere?  AND how about a law to keep the sticky fingers of Congress from using Social Security Funds for general operating expenses?  Hmmmm?

We want the so-called Obama health care plan, approved by Congress, given a chance.   Come on, most of us know it hasn’t been implemented yet, but it is being blamed for anything and everything from unemployment to the weather.

We want financial reform, NOW.  Shame on Congress for not funding the Consumer Protection Agency.  Let the big banks deal with the same realities we are.  Prevent another cascade of financial greed while we still can.

We want real support for our military AND our veterans, NOW.  How dare we not?

We want real support for education, NOW.  Again, how dare we not?  Lack of support has helped exacerbate the current unemployment crisis; there are openings for skilled workers and not enough skilled workers.  Duh!

We want members of Congress to stop being rude and obstructive, and to be civil and constructive, and remember their oaths to our country, NOT to lobbyists and special interests.  Is that too much to ask?

We want campaign finance reform, NOW.   Corporations are NOT people.  They are businesses.  And right now they own this country, not the real people.

We want reasonable immigration reform as soon as possible; this is a real and current danger and Congress is being irrational and irresponsible.

We had always believed that once someone became a member of the U.S. Congress, they represented the U.S. people.  Not a political party.  Not a few square miles.  The whole country.  We are so heartbroken, frustrated, disgusted, AND ashamed just now about our government, about the failure of our government to take care of its people.  Remember that word:  failure.   If our country is failed in these important initiatives, every member of both houses of Congress will be a signatory.  The President can propose, but if Congress does not take responsible action to stop playing petty, petty politics and do their jobs, it will be on Congress’s heads.   Both Houses of Congress will own a failure none of us want to imagine.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

No more crying over crinums

As I’ve remarked before, I had to wait a long, long time for my crinums to bloom, particularly the one designated as ‘milk and wine’.  For the uninitiated, crinums are wonderfully tough, long-lived bulbs, not true lilies, but with beautiful flowers of many shapes and shades.   Looking back, it is obvious that my crinum bulbs went through a lot:  planted in pots, hauled from one home to another, parked for keeping at our daughter’s house during a winter, hauled again to our current home, but not planted out for quite awhile until beds could be prepared.  And all of that in addition to some bitter winters and burning summers.  And most bulbs, regardless of variety, take a bit of time to settle in when they are moved, just like all other perennials. 

So!  The white crinums, crinum powellii album, have bloomed some, but they apparently prefer mid-summer for blooming, and this having been the hottest summer for any state in the country in recorded weather time, it was obviously more remarkable that they bloomed at all.  It’s just that crinums enjoy (or suffer from) a very hyped reputation as the toughest bulbs ever, and that just doesn’t seem to be always true.  Labeling anything as ‘can’t fail’ is just setting everyone up for disappointment.  Although the variety of crinum called Ellen Bonsanquet sure is amazing.  Planted it last spring, it perked right up and bloomed and bloomed last year, then this year there it went again.  And a gorgeous rose color to boot.

Which brings me to the ‘milk and wine’ lilies.   If you ever have the chance for one, take it.  The wait is worth it, and it might not even be that much of a wait if you don’t have to haul it from pillar to post as we did.  The milk-and-wine bloomed here awhile back, and I didn’t spot it in time to see it fresh and pretty, just said ‘oh, hello’, because it was too **** hot.  Ah, but the other day, we were outside moving compost around, and I smelled this lovely fragrance and looked around and there was a whole bouquet on one stem and it was perfuming the garden.  So the next morning I cut the stem and brought it in and being fresh it has these lovely streaks of rosy red along the petals and the stamens match that color, and it stands in the vase a bouquet all in itself.  And … there’s another stem coming up.   Ahhhhh – it’s payback time, at last.  Now if I can just get this other new crinum bulb to get going; it’s called Stars and Stripes and I can hardly wait!  Again!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A possible solution

It occurred to me that our flailing Congress might, just might have a solution within itself as to how to put an end to this miserable gridlock problem that has so dismayed the citizenry and prevented Congress from being the least bit useful and productive.

I just kept thinking about pledges and then when we were watching the Republican debate this last Wednesday night (yes, we watch the debates; how else are we going to know how to disagree?), former Ambassador Jon Huntsman said something we thought was very well put:  he said he wished he could persuade everyone to take a pledge to take no pledges.  He said he made a pledge to his wife and a pledge of allegiance to his country, but that he felt that taking further pledges such as, for example to not raise taxes, “diminishes political discussion and jeopardizes the ability to lead.”

Well!  Here’s my idea.  Thinking about all that, it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, those wretched Tea Party members in Congress, having taken their oaths of office, pledging their allegiance to the Constitution, and then taking a pledge about taxes with a lobbyist, of all people, they might have pre-empted their oath of office.   Wouldn’t that be grand?  We could say, “OK, you don’t want to even consider raising taxes, you want to hold to your pledge about that, then you’re out.  O-U-T.  Not a member of Congress.  There could be a scramble to replace them, but whoever the replacements were, they’d have to promise to really, really mean their oaths of office.  They could then, depending on the replacements, vote to the best of their judgment, and that might very well lead to not raising taxes, but it would be because of their informed choices and decision, not one imposed on them by someone who had no moral right to do so. 

Oh, I know, I know, it’s a lovely fantasy.  But it’s based on something very ugly and very dangerous for our country:  that someone, anyone, could persuade a member of Congress to make a pledge such as this.   Ambassador Huntsman is not my candidate, nor even my party, but he is really right on this.

Hey, maybe Mr. Huntsman is not a Republican after all!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Our 9-11 Shame

The events of September 11, 2001, are a subject which is much on the minds of everyone just at this time.

And we are ashamed that neither members of Congress nor we ourselves have not stood up and taken the right and proper position of respect.
We can proclaim that everyone involved in that day, firemen, policemen, civilians, everyone, were true heroes.  We can create a memorial with the names inscribed of the people who were lost. 

It seems that we can do everything except provide what would honor the fallen most:  make sure that all the first responders and the second responders and so on, all the ones who rushed to all the scenes and risked their lives and health and futures by doing so, that these people receive the kind of health care they so desperately need and so richly deserve.  Period.  We suddenly realized:  it simply doesn’t matter if they developed diseases that might or might not have been triggered by that event.  They were there.  They did what they did.  They did what was asked and so very much more.  Now in front of the whole world and especially our children and youth, we are being unbelievably uncaring, unbelievably un-American and unbelievably hypocritical.  And worst of all:  unbelievably indifferent to their suffering.

We have written our representative and senators in Washington, begging them to right this wrong.  And sooner, rather than later.  If you agree, join us.  And hurry.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

I can’t seem to remember

No, I don’t seem to be suffering from dementia, yet.  And I can clearly remember the period of time when I began loving to garden and grow things.  But I can’t seem to remember exactly when I got interested in the political process.  Interested, that is, as a reserved participant rather than being oblivious.  I do clearly recall when, in my early twenties, I ended up with a Barry Goldwater sticker on my car bumper as the result of attending a rally out of curiosity, only to have my father insist that I park it in the garage when I came to visit; he was a staunch Democrat always, and didn’t want the neighbors to see that bumper sticker at his home.  And my dad was a very gentle, mild-mannered fellow.  I do know that my first presidential vote was cast for John F. Kennedy.  I’m not Catholic so it was more than anything what he said that made me support him and I never changed my mind.  Disappointed, yes, when in later years the extent of his infidelities surfaced, but I thought and still think he was a good president for the time he was allowed.

But over the years, voting for both Democratic and Republican candidates, I developed a position as an independent moderate.  I also developed the philosophy that in our country we have at least six, perhaps seven, political parties:  liberal and conservative Democrats, liberal and conservative Republicans, both categories for Independents, and then there is the Tea Party which is, for me, a political movement similar to what rap music is to music:  extreme and not very well thought out.

I can thank the Tea Party for one thing though:  our family’s personal revulsion for Tea Party or any other members of Congress who make pledges that apparently supersede their vows as members of Congress, and our revulsion for the entire Republican Party’s affinity for making assertions about a sitting president that are simply not true and blaming the President for their own choices and actions, as well as the current Republican candidates introducing ‘plans’ as their own that copy what the President has tried and tried to introduce and get at least debated, pretty well assures me that we will all, in our family, be supporting Mr. Obama much more vigorously than we have supported previous elections, with contributions and with personal effort.   Because we used to think that if our own candidate didn’t win office, the one who did would do his best for the country too.  And I can remember really well when we stopped believing that:  November 2000.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Well, we’re at it again

So now the power companies are in the cross-hairs of the discontented.  Well, that’s what they deserve for taking on the job.  Trying to keep us folks supplied continuously with power for our TV’s, 360’s, phone chargers, not to mention computers, is a full-time job, and they took it on.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  There are many, many dissatisfactions that even I have with power companies.  First of all, there’s erratic pricing:  you never know what the price is going to jump to, and if you lock into a contract (whee!), you know costs will go down until just before you need to renew said contract.  There’s supposed to be competition, but it’s hard to see.  Then it seems when the weather gets hottest or coldest, alarms go out to expect possible outages as if it has never been really hot or really cold before.

But here’s one dissatisfaction I can’t see as reasonable:  expecting immediate return of power after a brutal storm such as Irene.  Expecting linemen to work 24-hour-a-day shifts, 7 days a week, to straighten up power poles or install new ones across a terrain where the geography has literally been rearranged.  Where rivers have been moved, where houses have been removed, where roads and bridges are somewhere downstream from their original sites.  Sure, I understand the fear of losing all the food in the freezer, of not having light at night in a landscape that has turned unfamiliar and scary.  But can I just suggest that frozen food can be cooked on the grill or turned over to emergency shelter locations that might have a generator, and candles and flashlights can persuade children that camping out at home is fun.  I expect a lot of neighborhoods have managed to put their resources together and ‘make do’ with what they have, that wonderful pioneer expression.  At least, unlike the pioneers, we know that eventually, perhaps soon, electricity is coming, and we’ll lose our family’s attention back to their electronics.  And it will be time to put the board games and cards and checkers away in the dark.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

You’re Welcome

In the now-aftermath of Hurricane Irene, which almost immediately followed the rare East Coast earthquake, it has been interesting to see a number of comments of complaint – that’s right, complaint – from the unscathed about what they consider the excess caution of local and Federal government entities concerning evacuations and transportation shut-downs.   According to some of the beach-front vendors in some areas, it wasn’t necessary to evacuate the beach, although you can just hear what they would have said if everything had been blown away, including all their gewgaws.  According to some commuters, it wasn’t necessary to shut down the New York subway system, although you can just hear what they would have said if the flooding had been worse and the subways had filled with water and the electrical systems had been permanently damaged and it had taken months and years to restore them to service.  What if everyone in the path of that storm had found themselves in the same situation as many in New Jersey and New England, who seem to be experiencing the longest duration of flooding and power outages?  And does anyone stop and think:  what if that earthquake and that hurricane had occurred simultaneously.  Think of that!

Where is the gratitude for the storm-chasers and meteorologists, for the governors and mayors, for the National Guard and the firemen and police who did their best to minimize the damages and are out there, still?  Where is the understanding that storm predictions are just that, predictions done to the best of their ability by dedicated, informed people trying to help us stay one step ahead of Nature.  Are we as a society so Hollywood-ized that we aren’t satisfied with less than Armageddon?  Well, we had better hope that total disasters happen only in the movies, because several events this year alone have come way too close.

We totally sympathize with the losses by all the folks who make their living along the East Coast (and all coasts) helping to make the beach experience a fun one for the visitors and everyone is very sorry about the damage to their livelihoods, but as for those who gripe about “over-hype” about the storm coverage:  “You’re welcome, would you like cheese with that whine?”